Authenticity. This of-the-moment buzzword recurs throughout 2018 home and garden titles and in publishers’ descriptions of what their readers are seeking. How can readers achieve authenticity at home? By eschewing prescriptive how-tos and figuring out who they are, what they love, and how that translates into their style—and lifestyle.
Personalization is everything, say the editors PW spoke with. “We’re going to see a lot more books giving people the confidence to create houses that tell their stories,” says Lucas Dietrich, editorial director of design books for Thames and Hudson. Home Work by Anna Yudina (Apr.) explores one way people are telling their design stories: through their home offices. “With more and more people working from home, this is a design book that deals with how you carve out space in a domestic environment,” Dietrich says.
Also aimed at helping home decorators discover and express their personal styles, Diary of Your Home by Joanna and Peter Ahlberg (Rizzoli, Mar.) prompts journal keepers to record responses to questions, including “Which three objects would you rescue first if your home went up in flames?,” and note design flaws they’ve discovered in a given room. Gridded pages help users rethink the arrangements of interior and exterior spaces, and there are places to tack in photos, paint chips, and fabric swatches. Extending the personalization concept, the book is available in three cover colors.
Another Rizzoli title, Your Home, Your Style (Mar.), by Donna Garlough, style director at e-tailer Joss Main, is a primer on how to find a personal sense of design and create a home that “works for you,” the author writes. Both books, says Rizzoli publisher Charles Miers, empower people to make decisions about how they want their homes to look and function.
This Is Home by Natalie Walker (Hardie Grant, Apr.) profiles occupants of 20 dwellings, who answer open-ended questions such as “What makes a welcoming home?” The book’s three sections—“Create,” “Live,” “Nurture”—guide readers in developing a sense of style based on their authentic individual stories. Jane Wilson, publishing director at Hardie Grant, says the book responds to the “increasingly accepted notion that people are preoccupied as much with the way their home makes them feel as they are with how it looks.”
Aimed at millennials, Hello Color (Quirk, May), by Rachel Mae Smith, who blogs at The Crafted Life, offers projects that allow house and apartment dwellers to personalize their spaces with color, one accessory at a time: a bejeweled planter, a bright centerpiece, a painted chair. The book also encourages the judicious use of hard-to-kill houseplants, which not only help filter the air but also add a splash of green.
Here, too, is a theme that recurs this season: houseplants as wellness essentials. Homes with Soul and Your Home, Your Style are among the titles that promote the benefits of home greenery. In keeping with the recent trend toward fresh-looking reference titles, Lauren Camilleri and Sophia Kaplan’s Leaf Supply (Smith Street, Apr.), written with urbanites in mind, presents minimalist photos alongside information about what plants to choose, how to care for them, and the myriad ways in which they can enhance one’s life.
Like This Is Home, Leaf Supply also includes interviews with what it calls “plant people,” who help drive home the central message that “there’s a plant out there for everyone and every space.”
“There was a period when we got away from green books—they became too down-market,” says Rizzoli’s Miers (the publisher distributes Australia-based Smith Street in the U.S.). “But there’s a sensitivity to it now, and a chance to reenter the category with something [like Leaf Supply], that’s a little more chic.”
Design-Your-Garden Toolkit (Storey, Mar.), by former Fine Gardening editor Michelle Gervais, takes the plant love outside. Personalization is high on this author’s agenda, too, as is giving black thumbs some confidence with flora. In addition to offering advice on which plants to grow where, integrating color and texture, and achieving harmony in the garden, the book includes stickers that allow garden planners to arrange and rearrange plantings on a design board before committing—expensively—to them in real life.
The personalization trend also manifests in food gardening. Grow What You Love by Emily Murphy (Firefly, out now) offers up the pastime as a way to cultivate “joy in all areas of your life,” the author writes, by whatever plants inspire. Grow. Food. Anywhere (Hardie Grant), by the founders of the Little Veggie Patch, an Australian gardening company, gives nods to the different reasons readers might want to grow their own produce, while assuming that many of them have a politically motivated interest, such as weaning themselves off of corporate agriculture. The book’s bright graphics have a psychedelic ’60s vibe and are designed to make following instructions as simple as browsing from one photo to the next.
In the 1970s, sustainable living was the purview of a new generation of back-to-the-landers, many of them disciples of Helen and Scott Nearing, whose 1954 book Living the Good Life documented the couple’s foray into homesteading. In 2018, the concept of self-sufficiency is more mainstream. Forthcoming books on the subject tap into burgeoning interest in the subject among a cross-section of readers for whom sustainable living is the ultimate reflection of their personal style—and lifestyle.
One way to start living sustainably is to reduce the amount of trash generated at home. Zero Waste by Shia Su (Skyhorse, Apr.) offers a guide to cutting down on every type of waste, including plastic, clothing, and food. As proof of Su’s eco-chops, the author describes a one-quart jar into which she can fit a whole year’s worth of garbage. She stresses the importance of regaining knowledge of skills lost with the advent of the service economy: how to compost, and mend, and unclog a sink without buying Drano.
Su’s approach is informed by current popular sentiment: “Isn’t it crazy how we are wasting our dwindling resources on things designed to go into the trash after one use?” the author writes. This might have been a fringe question not long ago, but that’s no longer the case, publishers say.
“Sustainability books peaked for us about four years ago, but they’re picking up steam again, partly because the markets for them are expanding,” says Abigail Gehring, associate publisher at Skyhorse. Titles in this category tend to have strong backlist legs, she says, citing 2010’s Mini Farming by Brett L. Markham (118,000 print copies) and her own Back to Basics (the two most recent editions, from 2008 and 2014, have together sold 96,000 print copies).
Forthcoming Skyhorse titles suggest varying levels of sustainability commitment. The Sustainable Home (Aug.), by green-living advisor and blogger Melissa Schifman, gives tips on updating houses to cut down on energy and water usage. Do-It-Yourself-Projects to Get You Off the Grid by Noah Weinstein (Sept.), developed from material on the DIY website Instructables, goes further, with directions for constructing rain barrels and installing solar panels.
Books from Page Street (The Doable Off-Grid Homestead by Shannon Stonger and Stewart Stonger, July) and IMM Lifestyle (Living off the Grid by Alan and Gill Bridgewater, Oct.) guide first-timers through building a root cellar and picking the best alternative energy source (e.g., solar, wind, geothermal) for a property. At the radical end of the sustainability spectrum, June’s Mudgirls Manifesto, by the 10 members of an all-women Canadian natural building collective, is part of New Society’s natural building list. The book is likely to appeal to readers for whom the ultimate in personalization is a small house they construct out of sustainable mud, with the help of their friends, on a patch of land in the woods.
Some authors come at sustainability from a different angle: planting in order to encourage pollinators. Butterfly Gardening by Jane Hurwitz (Princeton Univ., Apr.), for one, offers regional growing advice alongside maps and plentiful color photos.
By contrast, Planting for Honeybees by Sarah Wyndham Lewis (Quadrille, Mar.), which addresses the urgency of flower gardening for the beleaguered insects, takes a less traditional visual approach, with illustrations by James Weston Lewis in midcentury greens, blues, and pinks. Targeting not just experienced or country gardeners but beginners and urbanites as well, the book’s goal is to draw everyone into the cause, even if that means something as simple as planting a window box. Most bee-friendly planting books are “predominantly academic and aimed at people who already know about the subject,” says Harriet Butt, editor at Quadrille. She sees Lewis’s book as, at least in part, a gift title that “invites the reader to do their bit.”
Further broadening the scope of sustainable gardening projects, Climate-Wise Landscaping by Sue Reed and Ginny Stibolt (New Society, Apr.) not only offers advice on planting for a variety of pollinators but also covers how to introduce native grasses to the lawn, pick trees for their cooling capabilities, design backyard areas to withstand droughts and floods, and—linking it to the nouveau homesteading movement—grow one’s own food.
Millennials are driving the wave of interest in such titles, says Rob West, acquisitions editor at New Society. “They’ve just been handed a global financial crisis, they’re living in expensive shoeboxes in cities, and they’re realizing they want a different life,” he says. “They want to be in touch with the earth.” He’s made a concerted effort to market to this demographic, hoping it will spur another strong seller like 2014’s The Market Gardener by Canadian microfarmer Jean-Martin Fortier, New Society’s best-performing title to date. Millennials, West says, “are looking for a whole new model.”
Lela Nargi is a freelance journalist in Brooklyn, N.Y.